The days of Danny Zuko singing of his summer love to his friends in Grease are long over. In today’s high schools, many teenage boys come back from summer vacation with a cell phone full of nude photographs of the girl he met on vacation. Teenage boys are not the only culprits to send and receive the messages, though; teenage girls send and receive the pictures as well. Many teenagers are participating in the dangerous habit of sexting.
Sexting is the act of using digital devices to send sexually explicit photographs or messages. A recent trend, sexting is changing and developing as technology and advancements occur. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy conducted a survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults. According to the survey, 39% of all the teenagers polled (653 teenage respondents between the ages of 13 and 19) said they have sent or posted a sexually suggestive message of themselves. Also, 20% of the teenagers overall said they have sent a nude or semi-nude picture or video of themselves, and 48% of the teenagers said they have received such messages. This data shows that almost half of all teenagers have received a sexually explicit message on their cell phone or over the internet.
While some teenagers see sexting as fun and harmless, the reality is that there are consequences to this practice. If one of the individuals participating in the sexting is over eighteen and the other is not, for example, then the adult in the situation can be held accountable for child pornography. For teenagers under eighteen, parents, state law officials, and school officials are punishing the individuals for their inappropriate behavior.
Sexting occurs worldwide. In the United States, there have been many instances. In Alabama, for example, four middle school students were arrested for exchanging nude photos of themselves. In Rochester, New York, a 16-year-old boy is facing up to seven years in prison for forwarding a nude photograph of a 15-year-old girl to his friends. In Wisconsin, a 17-year-old boy was charged with possessing child pornography after he posted naked photographs of his teenage girlfriend on the Internet. In Indiana, a teenage boy was accused on felony obscenity charges for sending a photograph of his genitals to several female classmates. In Greensburg, Pennsylvania, six teenagers were arrested for child pornography charges… The list goes on.
The issue continues to grow and new cases of sexting between teenagers are found every day. The act can lead to criminal charges, and because of broken sex laws, sexting as a minor can even result in the teenager having to register as a sex offender- a label that will stick with them for life and will limit where they can work, go to school, and even live.
Digital information is readily available and easy to send, so a nude photograph can spread like wildfire among Internet and cell phone users. The photograph could end up in the wrong hands, though, and could potentially bring serious consequences upon the sender.
While sexting is not the easiest thing to monitor, it is important for parents and adult authorities to communicate with the teens in their life. Openly and honestly talk to teenagers about the consequences of sexting. Discuss online and cell phone activity, and be aware of who the teen talks to, what they post online, and how they feel about the act of sexting. Make sure that the teenagers understand that sexting is not a joke and that the consequences could quite literally ruin their lives.